Tag Archive: figs

New interpretation of Linear A tablet ZA 20 (Zakros):

Linear A tablet ZA 20 HM 1636 Zakros

This new interpretation of Linear A tablet ZA 20 (Zakros) varies only slightly from my original one. I interpret the syllabogram on line 0 (the indecipherable line) as being NI, since the bottom of NI is a vertical line. And figs often figure prominently in Linear A tablets. The actual reading of the text is not quite clear, since there are at least 2 damaged syllabograms following MI on line 1. It is impossible to determine with any accuracy what the actual units of measurement are for anything on this tablet, although of course the units of chaff from wheat would have to be considerably less than the total units of wheat. So 1 unit + 6 units of wheat probably refers to something like bushels (a mere approximation), from which we would not get all that much chaff… which may explain the presence of the container, supposedly containing 3 smallish units of chaff. But why would anyone want to place chaff in a container? So we see problems with the decipherment.

Partial conjectural decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 6 Haghia Triada (VERSO):

Haghia Triada Linear A tablet HT6 VERSO

If there is any Linear A tablet which has proven a real headache, it has to be this one. The surface of the VERSO of HT 6 (Haghia Triada) is so badly damaged that experts such as Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog and Prof. John G. Younger cannot even agree on a few syllabograms in the text, while I myself disagree with them on some of the same. Additionally, there is no consensus on the values of Linear A fractions. Interpretations by Andras Zeke and Prof. John G. Younger of the smaller fractional values often do not agree. So I am unwilling to add fuel to the fire. I simply choose whichever value (either that of Zeke or of Younger) seems more convincing to me. At any rate, no one today can determine with any degree of accuracy numeric values in Minoan Linear or Mycenaean Linear B, since both syllabaries are so historically remote as to preclude any convincing readings.

As for the syllabograms on this tablet, once again, Andras Zeke and John G. Younger do not agree on the values of at least 3 of them. And I find myself at odds with their own interpretations. This is the result of the shoddy scribal hand and the less than ideal condition of the tablet itself. As for maridi, I find myself obliged to read it as if it were meridi, since the interpretation wool (mari) is utterly out of the question in the context of this tablet, whereas reading it as meridi = “honey” makes much more sense contextually. As for sama, it may be the Minoan equivalent of Mycenaean Linear B samara = mound/hill”, but once again, this interpretation is conjectural. I have previously tentatively deciphered Old Minoan (OM) pa3nina (painina) as “an amphora for the storage of… ”, but here again, I have gone out on a limb. Nevertheless, the interpretation once again suits the context. Once all of fig and pomegranate juice (RECTO) and the drops of wine and honey (VERSO) are accounted for, we can see that this tablet may deal with a recipe for a sweet alcoholic beverage, which with these ingredients would indeed be delicious.

Consequently, any convincing decipherment of the VERSO of HT 6 is beyond our reach. We simply have to muddle through it and come up with the best alternatives we can for each apparently decipherable word. However, by fully taking into account the much more accessible text on the RECTO of HT 6, I believe I have been able to rescue a small portion of the significance of the text on the VERSO by placing it in its proper context with the RECTO. See the previous post for my fuller decipherment of the RECTO.

Linear A tablet HT 6 (Haghia Triada) RECTO: ripe figs and pomegranates:


Linear A tablet HT 6 (Haghia Triada) RECTO deals with ripe crops, including figs and pomegranates. Although we do not know what the Old Minoan words jaru or ruja (could be either), mazu and daqera mean, they are almost certainly kinds of ripe crops, some of them fruits. However, it is possible that mazu derives from the proto-Indo-European mat = to plant, hoe. Cf. Occitan massa and Spanish maza = “mallet”. This makes sense in context.

Of the probable Mycenaean-derived New Minoan words, pitaja, on line 2, which appears to mean “drinkable”, would imply that we are dealing with 24 units (cups?) of fig juice, in view of the fact that figs are specified as the first ripe crop on line 1.

It is noteworthy that, as the result of having learned how to decipher some 25-30 Linear A tablets, all of which are at least partially inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan, I am finally gaining greater insight into the vocabulary, Old Minoan and New Minoan alike, of Linear A tablets.

Since this tablet is so information rich, I am obliged to decipher the VERSO in the next post.

Free translation of Linear A tablet KH 5 (Khania) concerning the shipping of wine by sea?

Linear A tablet KH 5 Khania enhanced

If this tablet, KH 5 (Khania) is inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan, then it would appear that it deals with the shipping of wine by sea. The fact that the floor boards are apparently level would imply that the shipment was carried out successfully in calm seas. On line 1, adakisika, which is Mycenaean-derived New Minoan with orthography adapted to Old Minoan, translates as and adorned with ivy, which implies that the cargo has been blessed by a priest(ess). If this is the case, there is text missing before this phrase, which after all ends with and”, hence possibly “and adorned with ivy (blessed by a priest(ess))”. If NA references nauwi, i.e. “on a ship”, then the mention of “on a level wooden floor (i.e. deck)” makes sense in context. This decipherment may be largely correct, but there is no way of verifying this with any certainty. Finally, if PA is the first syllabogram of pa3ni (paini), which I interpret as Old Minoan for “amphora”, then the wine is being shipped in amphorae, the only way wine could have been shipped in Minoan times. As if…

Linear A tablet HT 18 (Haghia Triada) in Old Minoan fully deciphered:

Linear A ideogams for wheat and barley

Linear A tablet HT 18 Haghia Triada

Except for the word pase which introduces this tablet, and which is probably Mycenaean-derived, the entire tablet is in Old Minoan, i.e. the Minoan substratum. Since we know what all of the ideograms and supersyllabograms mean, the decipherment is straightforward. On the first line, we have the ideogram for wheat followed by the associative supersyllabogram QE, which stands for qeria, Old Minoan for “emmer roasted wheat”. Next we have the ideogram for “roasted einkorn”, which Prof. John G. Younger incorrectly identifies as the ideogram for “olives”. They are sometimes confused. In this context, it makes no sense whatsoever for this ideogram to signify “olives”, in view of the fact the rest of the tablet deals with wheat, except at the very end, where figs are introduced. The associative supersyllabogram KI with the ideogram for “roasted einkorn” may reference one of two things, either kiretana, which is apparently Old Minoan for “Cretan” or more likely than not kireta2 (kiretai), meaning “with barley”. In other words, the roasted einkorn is mixed with barley. Finally, we have the supersyllabogram NI for “figs”. In old Minoan, this word is either nire or nite in the plural. The assignment of “bushel-like units” to the wheat and barley on this tablet is merely an approximation, since we have no idea what the standard unit for the measurement of grains, wheat or barley was in Minoan or for that matter in Mycenaean Crete. But it gives us an approximation of the amounts we are dealing with on this tablet.

A truly fascinating Cretan hieroglyphic tablet from Phaistos!

Cretan hieroglyphic tablet from Phaistos

I dare say I find this tablet one of the most intriguing I have ever run across. I is just jam packed with information! I have done my best to decipher at least a little of it. .5 is probably the earliest version for the later-to-become ideogram for “roasted einkorn wheat”. Likewise .8 is almost certainly the primordial ideogram for “figs”. I have also provided the translation for the word “figs” in Old Minoan. It is either nire (singular nira2=nirae) or nite (singular nita2=nitai). It can only be one or other of these 2 options. I was the first person ever to successfully decipher the Old Minoan word for “figs” several months ago.

Proto-Greek or Mycenaean kiritai = barley on Minoan Linear A tablet HT 114 (Haghia Triada):

Like many other Linear A tablets, HT 114 (Haghia Triada) does not appear to be inscribed only in the Minoan language. The proto-Greek or, more accurately, the Mycenaean word, kirita2 (kiritai), which means barley and which is almost exactly equivalent to Linear B, kirita, meaning the very same thing, appears on the very first line of this tablet. The only difference is that the Linear A word, kiritai, is plural, whereas the Linear B, kirita, is singular, as we can see here:

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 114 Haghia Triade

While the rest of HT 114 is inscribed in Minoan, the appearance of this one Mycenaean word gives pause. Was Linear A the syllabary of proto-Greek or of Mycenaean Greek just before the advent of the new official syllabary, Linear B? The fact is that it was not. However, this does not mean that there was not proto-Greek or Mycenaean vocabulary on Linear A tablets. How can this be, when the language itself is not proto-Greek?

The phenomenon of the superimposition of a superstratum of vocabulary from a source language (Mycenaean in the case of Linear A) onto a target language (Minoan), is historically not unique to the Minoan language. A strikingly similar event occurred in English with the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 AD. Before that date, the only English was Anglo-Saxon. This is what is called Old English. But after conquest of England in 1066 AD, over 10,000 Norman French words streamed into the language between 1100 and 1450 AD, altering the landscape of English vocabulary almost beyond recognition. In fact, believe it or not, only 26 % of English vocabulary is Germanic versus 29 % is French, 29 % Latin and 6 % Greek. So the latter 3 languages, amounting to 64 % of the entire English lexicon, have completely overshadowed the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Germanic vocabulary, as illustrated in this Figure:

origins of English vocabulary

This phenomenon is unique to English alone among all of the Germanic languages. While the grammar and syntax of English is Germanic, the great majority of its vocabulary is not. A strikingly similar event appears to have occurred when the Mycenaeans conquered Knossos, is dependencies and Crete ca. 1500 – 1450 BCE. Just as the Norman French superstratum has imposed itself on Old English, giving rise to Middle and Modern English, Mycenaean Greek operated in much the same fashion when it superimposed itself on Old Minoan, leading to New Minoan vocabulary, which is proto-Greek or Mycenaean. I have already isolated no fewer than 150 proto-Greek or Mycenaean words out of 510 intact words (by my own arbitrary count) in the Linear A lexicon. Again, while the Minoan language itself is not proto-Greek in its grammar and syntax, but is of another, to date still unknown, origin, a large portion of its vocabulary is not Old Minoan, but instead proto-Greek or Mycenaean, as I shall demonstrate in no uncertain terms in my decipherments of numerous Linear A tablets to follow this one. One striking feature of New Minoan is this: the percentage of proto-Greek or Mycenaean vocabulary in Linear B comes to 29 %, precisely the same level as Norman French in English. Although this is sheer co-incidence, it is quite intriguing.

First  2 haiku in Minoan Linear A, English et français : qareto & datara



in a lease field
a shepherd
and a cedar tree

dans un champ loué 
un berger
et un cèdre



a grove of fig trees
in a kylix

figuiers dans un bosquet
dans un kylix

© by/ par Richard Vallance Janke
Sept. 27/ le 27 sept. 2016

Table of the distribution of 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector:

Following is the Table of the 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector. It is clear from this table that the majority of supersyllabograms (12) in Minoan Linear A fall in the olive trees, olives and olive oil sub-sector of the agricultural sector of the Minoan economy, primarily in Haghia Triada, but also in Khania (Chania). The next most common sector is grains (barley & wheat) with 7, the third are vases and pottery and also wine with 5, the fourth is figs with 2 and the fifth are military (men as attendants to the king) and textiles with 1 SSYL each.


The distribution of supersyllabograms in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B by economic sector is of the utmost importance. I shall need to cross-correlate the key economic sector-by-sector distribution of supersyllabograms in both syllabaries to verify whether or not the distribution of SSYLs in the one syllabary (Linear A) and the other (Linear B) is closely aligned or not. The alignment of supersyllabograms in each syllabary relative to the other will determine with greater accuracy which economic sectors are the most and which the least important in each language, Minoan and Mycenaean. This way, we can get a much better idea of how the key economic sectors are distributed, from most to least important, in each of the two societies, Minoan and post-Minoan Mycenaean. It is of the utmost important to understand that all of the supersyllabograms in both of these syllabaries must refer only to major economic terms in each sector and sub-sector. 

I shall explicitly compare the relative economic distribution of each society, the Minoan and Mycenaean in my upcoming article, Linear B tablet Pylos TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is the Mycenaean Linear B “Rosetta Stone” for Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada, in Vol. 16 (2016) of the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448. The Table of 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector is to appear in this article.

I have deciphered the following 8 supersyllabograms more or less successfully in Minoan Linear A:

DA = dadumata = grain/wheat measurer? = Linear B sitokowo
KA = kapa = follower or foot soldier, attendant to the king 
KI = kidata = to be accepted for delivery = Linear B dekesato
kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis
kiretana = (having been) delivered (past participle passive) = Linear B amoiyeto
kireza = unit of measurement for figs, probably 1 basket
kiro = owed = Linear B oporo = they owed
NI = nipa3 (nipai) or nira2 (nirai) = figs = Linear B suza. But Mycenaean Linear B shares NI with Minoan Linear A, in spite of the fact that the Mycenaean word for figs is suza.   
PA = pa3ni (amphora for storing grain) + pa3nina = grain or wheat stored in an amphora
RA ra*164ti = approx. 5 litres (of wine) 
SA sara2 (sarai) = small unit of measurement: dry approx. 1 kg., liquid approx. 1 litre
TE = tereza = standard unit of usually liquid measurement, sometimes of dry measurement

What is the Minoan Linear A word for “figs”? It only appears as a logogram on Linear A tablets, so we do not know how it might be spelled. However, informed speculation leads me...

What is the Minoan Linear A word for figs

What is the Minoan Linear A word for “figs”? As it only appears as a logogram on Linear A tablets and is never spelled out, we do not know its orthography. Or so it appears. However, informed speculation leads me to infer the following from what we already know about the syllabogram-cum-logogram for “figs” in Mycenaean Linear B, which just so happens to be exactly the same syllabogram/logogram as that for “figs” in Minoan Linear A. All this in spite of the fact that the Mycenaean Greek word for “figs” is suza, which is the same word as in many other ancient Greek dialects. So what is going on here? There is no doubt but that Mycenaean Linear B inherited the logogram for “figs” from Minoan Linear A. They simply lifted it lock-stock-and-barrel from the earlier syllabary. But why? Why didn’t they turn to their own word for “figs”, suza, and use its first syllabogram, SU, as the syllabogram/logogram for “figs”? It seems passingly strange. But is it?

Turning to our Glossary of 95 Minoan Linear words, we set our sights on examining Minoan Linear A words which are typically diminutives. This we do because after all, figs are very small; hence, we can infer that the word referencing them, beginning with the syllabogram NI, should display orthographic characteristics reminiscent of other Minoan Linear A diminutives. Let us examine the latter in turn. In the Glossary, we find:

dumitatira2 (dumitatirai) = right or inner spindle wheel on one side of the distaff
karopa3 (karopai) = kylix (with two handles & much smaller than a pithos)
kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis
kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil? 
pimitatira2 (pimitatirai) = left or outer spindle wheel on one side of the distaff
sara2 (sarai) = small unit of measurement: dry approx. 1 kg., liquid approx. 1 litre
supa3 (supai) = small cup = Linear B dipa mewiyo

All of the terms above refer to small, i.e. diminutive, items. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that the Minoan Linear A word for “figs” may quite possibly be similar to any of the above. There are  3 diminutive ultimates in Minoan Linear A, pa3 (pai) and ra2 (rai) and ta2 (tai). Thus, the Minoan Linear A word for “figs” is likely to be one of these alternatives:

nipai3 (nipai)
nira2 (nirai)
nita2 (nitai)

However, the last alternative (nita2/nitai) seems to be the least likely candidate. This is because one of the terms ending in ta2 (tai),  kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis is abstract, while the other, kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil? , apparently describes a something to which size cannot be directly attributed. One can have a little bit, a moderate amount, or a great deal of scented olive oil. The amount cannot be pinned down. This attribute is semi-abstract in and of itself, at least is kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil. I cannot be sure of this meaning.

So it appears we are now down to two alternatives for the orthography of  “figs” in Minoan Linear A, i.e.

nipai3 (nipai)
nira2 (nirai)
Of course, we can never be certain which of these 3 alternatives might hit the proverbial target. We still can never really know what the Minoan term for “figs” is. But there are times when speculation leads us to a leap of faith which just might be grounded somewhere in the realm of reality.

As for the rationale behind the Mycenaean Linear B scribes
 to retain the syllabogram/logogram NI from Minoan Linear A, we shall never know why they chose to do that. It may have been a matter of expediency, or it may have been that the Minoans at Knossos had used the word for “figs” beginning with NI so intensively that the Mycenaean scribes could see no point changing the syllabogram/logogram NI, or it may have been for some other less obvious, possibly esoteric, reason. Yet, we must keep firmly in mind that the Mycenaean word for figs was suza, regardless of their decision to keep on relying on the independent supersyllabogram NI to represent “figs”, as seen in this Linear B tablet:  

K 841 NI independent

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 88 (Haghia Triada), ripe figs & fig gatherers in pay/hired: the next decisive step in the partial decipherment of Linear A

HT 88 facsimile

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 88 (Haghia Triada), which was quite out of my reach just a week ago, has now become accessible to decipherment. This is a direct result of the fact that I had already deciphered these words on this tablet, namely, reza (standard unit of measurement), kiro (owed) & datare (fig overseer). This outcome has for the first time facilitated the task of deciphering Linear A tablets in and of themselves which do not contain enough clues or indicators to trigger a plausible decipherment. Thus, I was able to extrapolate 2 news terms from this tablet alone.

kikina ostensibly means “purple” or, more accurately, “ripe” = Linear B popureyo.
pajare = “in pay” or “hired”  = Linear B emito.

This development may prove to be decisive, triggering a cascading domino effect, opening up preciously inaccessible vocabulary as a direct result of the 88 terms I have already managed to decipher, more or less accurately.

Here is an abbreviated version of Prof. John G. Younger’s version of HT 88:

HT 88 Figs


It is very likely that Minoan Linear A pitakase means the same thing as epididato = “distributed” in Mycenaean Linear B:

Dictionary.com distributed

In all probability, Minoan Linear A pitakase means the same thing as epididato = “distributed” in Mycenaean Linear B. There is firm circumstantial evidence to support my hypothesis. Dictionary.com defines “distributed” as follows:

HT 21  PITAKASE 161 distributed

Pay close heed to the synonyms I have underlined for each of the definitions above. Note that the definition includes reference to “prizes”... “distributed among ten winners”. Ten prizes, ten winners. Likewise, on Linear A tablet HT 21 (Haghia Triada), Prof. Younger directly links pitakase to“mixed commodities” (in his own words). This leads me straight to conclusion I have drawn. The term pitakase fits the context very well indeed, especially in light of the fact that a relatively large number (161) of commodities are being distributed. These are all almost certainly agricultural in nature, most likely representing barley, wheat, figs and other commodities in the same vein. So I am quite convinced that pitakase does indeed mean “distributed”, rating 75% or more on the scale of accuracy I have assigned for Minoan Linear A words I have deciphered.

This is the seventy-second (72) Minoan Linear A term I have deciphered, more or less accurately, to date.

Which of  atare/datara/uta2 in Minoan Linear A = Mycenaean Linear B opisuko “a figs overseer” ?

figs overseer Linear B Linear A

In Minoan Linear A, at first glance there appear to be two possibilities  for “figs overseer”, [1] atare & [2] datara = Mycenaean Linear B opisuko. The third word appearing in the illustration above, uta2 (utai) appears to refer to something else relating to figs, possibly “harvesting of figs”. But this troubles me quite a lot, since this last word is so different from the first two. It would seem more likely that the word for “harvesting of figs” would be something like atareuta2 (atareutai) or datarauta2 (dataraiutai). The next problem facing us is which word, atare or datara, actually refers to a “fig overseer”? This is no idle question. The term atare would appear to be masculine, whereas datara seems to be feminine, thereby disqualifying it as meaning “fig overseers”. On the other hand, datara may not be feminine at all, in which case it does qualify.  Moreover, it prepends the letter “d” to a minor variation of atare. So which one refers to a “fig overseer” and which to a “fig gatherer”? ... or perhaps it is even possible that neither of them refers to either, leaving the actual word for “fig overseer” as uta2 (utai). Tricky. I shall have to list all 3, of which atare may mean either “fig overseer” or  fig gatherer” and datare the same, or vice versa. I reserve uta2 (utai) as an alternative for “fig overseer”. 

These 3 words dilute to entries seventy (70) seventy-one (71).

Minoan Linear A tablet ZA 8, atare = “a grove of fig trees” at Zakros:

Linear A Zakros ZA 8 atare = fig grove

After spending considerable time wracking my brains out trying to figure out what atare on Minoan Linear A ZA 8 from Zakros could possibly mean, I finally came up with what I consider a rational solution. We note that no number of figs or fig trees follows the syllabogram NI, which designates figs in both Minoan Linear A and in Mycenaean Linear B, in which the actual word for “fig(s)” is suza. Given that Zakros in pre-Mycenaean Minoan times was probably a rather small outpost, the likelihood that there would be only 1 stand or grove of figs there stands up quite well to scrutiny. Of course, there is no way of saying for certain (far from it) that that is what arate means, but this is the route I have chosen to follow in deciphering the term.

This is the sixty-first (61) term we have deciphered, more or less accurately, in Minoan Linear A. This is post 1,200 on our site since its inception in late 2013.

Minoan Linear A tablet on figs, potentially confirming my decipherment of kireza as the standard unit of measurement for figs:

figs tablet original

This typically tiny Minoan Linear A tablet on figs potentially confirms my decipherment of kireza as the standard unit of measurement for figs. At least so it appears.  The text is awfully difficult to read and some of the syllabograms or characters completely escape me. However, the image of the jar, stirrup jar, amphora (or whatever it is) is as clear as the nose on one’s face. In the presence of an ideogram which looks like that for “figs”, this tablet may (or may not) confirm my initial decipherment of kireza as the standard unit for the measurement of figs by the basket. Only time and further research will tell.

Stunning Minoan fresco, Akrotiri, figs & Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 1, kireza = measurement of figs by the basket:

KIREZA 42 ZQ q Zakros KIREZA figs unit of measurement for figs

This stunning fresco from Akrotiri, featuring the typical Minoan “blue monkey” motif, fanciful animals on a celestial backdrop of figs is truly amazing! It is one of my favourite Minoan-style frescoes by far.  Immediately below it we find Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 1, on which the word kireza is inscribed. This word is so strikingly similar to the standard Minoan Linear A units of measurement,

reza = standard unit of (linear) measurement
adureza = standard unit of dry measurement
tereza = standard unit of liquid measurement (e.g. Wine)

that it is rather difficult to imagine it could be anything but a unit of measurement. However, I have only seen it used in conjunction with figs on any Minoan Linear tablet, and in fact, this is the only Minoan Linear A tablet on which kireza appears. Now the question is, what is the base unit of measurement of figs kireza refers to?  Given that the number of kireza on this tablet is 42, it would appear that it is a relatively large standard unit of measurement. And the unit which leaped to my mind was (and is) a basket of figs, by which I mean a basket which can be carried on one’s shoulders.  Additionally, as can be inferred from the Akrotiri fresco, women were tasked with gathering figs.    

This is the fifty-sixth (56) word in Minoan Linear A I have deciphered more or less accurately.


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